A hacked social media account can damage your reputation, especially when you’re supposed to have a certain level of social media savvy. Blaise Grimes-Viort, chief services officer at social media agency, The Social Element, offers a checklist for people to use if they want to prevent, detect or recover from, a social media hack.
The hacking of social media accounts seems to be happening more often – even social media doyen Mark Zuckerberg has fallen victim to hackers (in fact he had an account hacked three times in 2016).
But how can we defend against these attacks?
Preventing your social media accounts from being hacked
There are four things we can do to help prevent hackers from taking control of our accounts:
- Create strong and unique passwords. It’s bad enough if one password is discovered, but if that opens the door to multiple accounts the hacker can do a lot of damage.
- Never share your password. You can share access to data without giving away your password. It’s best to limit the number of people who have access to the actual password.
- Use two-factor authentication. Almost all social networks have this feature. Attempt to login and a code will be sent to your mobile, which you’ll then need to type into the site to gain access.
- Review the access rights of third-party apps. You may have used Twitter to sign-up for an app, granting that app read-write access to Twitter. Years later you may have forgotten about the app, but if it’s compromised you’re leaving your account vulnerable. To prevent this, carry out a regular cull of app access rights.
Signs that your social media account has been hacked
These may seem like obvious signs that someone has hacked your social media account, but if you’re not paying attention, they can be easy to miss. Ask yourself:
Has there been unusual activity on the account?
- Has the profile picture or header changed?
- Is the account suddenly ‘linking’, favouriting and following people it usually wouldn’t?
- Have updates appeared that you didn’t post?
- Has the social network emailed you about suspicious activity on the account?
- Have your followers started to receive spam messages from your social media account?
What to do if a social media hack hits
People aren’t perfect. Sometimes, despite our best efforts, the hackers will win.
First, check if you still have access to the account. If not, the hacker may have changed the email, username and password, locking you out of the account. Contact the social network’s support team to get this fixed.
Once that’s sorted, there are six things you can do to get things back on track.
- Scan – once the hack has been discovered, immediately run an anti-virus scan on all devices used to manage the account. Quarantine and delete any virus that the scan finds.
- Act – change your password. Make it strong and unique (capital and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols if possible). Change the password of the email address connected to the account as well, just to be safe.
- Inform – When you have regained access to your social network account, post publically to let your followers know that you were hacked and that any messages posted during the account take-over were not posted by you.
- Engage – If anyone was sent a direct message, try to contact them directly to apologise and check that everything is alright at their end.
- Revoke – Check what apps have access to your account and revoke the access to any of those set up during the time of the hack, and those that you don’t recognise or use any more.
- Correct – check that the correct email address is set up in account settings and change it back to the correct one if it’s been changed by the hacker.
By Blaise Grimes-Viort
Chief services officer